Exhibit traces Latino history at Yale

A new exhibit at Sterling Memorial Library traces the history of Latinos at Yale. From left above, co-curator Luis Chavez-Brumell, Director of the Latino Cultural Center Rosalinda Garcia and exhibits preparator Kerri Sancomb.
A new exhibit at Sterling Memorial Library traces the history of Latinos at Yale. From left above, co-curator Luis Chavez-Brumell, Director of the Latino Cultural Center Rosalinda Garcia and exhibits preparator Kerri Sancomb. Photo by Mason Kroll.

An exhibit documenting the historical growth of Latinos at Yale since the 1960s opened Monday at Sterling Memorial Library.

Conceived as a collaborative effort between Yale’s Latino Cultural Center and the Yale University Library, the exhibit features documents such as newspaper articles, letters and posters displayed in five glass cases that aim to convey a chronology of Latinos’ struggle to establish a niche on campus. Rosalinda Garcia, La Casa’s cultural director and assistant dean of Yale College, said the display of these “fascinating documents” allows the Latino community to share their story with others — a story that is “unfinished, but worth telling.”

“I think it’s crucial that our students know how hard their predecessors worked to secure all of the resources we have today,” Garcia said.

Garcia said students and librarians have been compiling materials for the exhibit since November 2010. Those students, along with Kerri Sancomb, exhibits preparator in the library’s preservation department, “spent countless hours going through bins and bins of historical documents, trying to identify items to include,” Garcia said.

“The exhibit was an opportunity for me to engage in cultural research, one that particularly inspired me due to its activist roots and provoked me to rethink my role as a student,” said Daniel Pizarro ART ’12, one of the students involved with putting up the exhibit. He said the exhibit highlights how Latino students engaged in active critical discussions in order to better understand how the University can serve their needs, adding that other students should follow their lead.

Garcia said while the aim of the exhibit is to provide visitors with a general sense of how Latinos evolved as a minority on campus, it does not convey a complete history. There are many documents that didn’t make the final cut due to space constraints, and many important documents are missing from La Casa’s archives, she said.

“We were unable to find many documents from the 80s or the 90s, so [the exhibit] does have somewhat of a 70s focus,” Garcia said.

Still, she added that she thought this should serve as an incentive for students to try to acquire this missing information, and for alumni to donate any documents they might have kept, especially in light of the upcoming Latino Alumni Reunion taking place later this month.

Garcia said the organizers were initially concerned that Latino alumni might think the exhibit overlooks their efforts that have yielded progress. The exhibit aims to balance portraying the difficulties the Latinos faced during their struggle for representation and showing the lasting, positive results of the Latino alumni’s efforts. Garcia said she hopes the final result is “not an overly heavy exhibit,” but one that gives a realistic overview of the historical events that led to the gradual growth of Latino presence on campus.

Still, Garcia said she hopes that the exhibit will engage Latinos and non-Latinos alike.

Russell Weiss-Irwin, a visitor from the City College of New York, said that even though he is not Latino, he thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit.

“I think it’s great that Yale is bringing attention to the Latino presence on campus, and I definitely learned a lot of things about the Latinos’ unique sense of community from the exhibit,” he said.

Jessica Tordoff ’15, also not a Latina, said that although the struggle of the Latinos certainly has its idiosyncrasies, she thinks the exhibit successfully universalizes their struggle and places it into a broader context. Paulo Costa ’14, who identifies as Latino, said he hopes the exhibit will give “a heads up to the Yale administration” to hire more Latino faculty.

According to information at the exhibit, there were less than 10 Latino students in 1968, and over 20 graduate and undergraduate Latino groups were created in the 2000s. The exhibit will be on display until June.

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